As Japanese mothers constantly warn their children, "ABONAI!" (which means dangerous). Japan has become far too reliant on a highly dangerous source of energy.
Japan has 54 active nuclear reactors, with a number of others planned or under construction. Nuclear energy is a strategic imperative in Japan, since the country heavily depends on imported fuel. Compare that to 104 nuclear plants in the U.S. (10 million square miles), 32 in Russia (6 million square miles), 19 in the UK (242,900 square miles), and 18 in Canada (10 million square miles). At 58 active plants, only France (640,000 square miles) is close to Japan (378,000 square miles) regarding the number of plants vs. square footage.
It's too soon to say how the support of nuclear energy in Japan will change given the current catastrophe, but in 2005, an International Atomic Energy Agency survey showed that "only one in five people in Japan considered nuclear power safe enough to justify new plant construction." However, in the same survey, 61 percent supported the current nuclear program while only 15 percent feel nuclear power is too dangerous and that all the plants in Japan should be shut down. This oppostion to the current nuclear program was the lowest of all the countries surveyed second to South Korea. The current situation has many in Japan wondering whether plants near them could be at risk.
In spite of what's going on in Japan, many (even some environmentalists and the White House) still support nuclear energy. It's baffling to me that so many could support something with such high risks.
My company has become well known for cleaning up after nuclear power plants. Clearly, the cleanup is important...but I've always been deeply uncomfortable with the association. You wouldn't find me volunteering to go work in the Tri-Cities. Even without a nuclear meltdown, workers in the vicinity of nuclear plants face increased risk for cancer and other health problems. And of course nuclear energy always begs the question of what kind of legacy we are leaving for our children?
It amazes me that this has not been a wakeup call for the world!